This paper will discuss Erik Erikson’s theory related to the epigenetic principle and how it applies to the common core learning practices used today. In reviewing Erikson’s epigenetic principle, Boeree (2006) likens this principle of developmental stages of the mind to the petals of a rosebud, stating that “each petal opens up at a certain time, in a certain order, which nature, through its genetics, has determined” (p.24). Boeree continues in saying that interfering with this natural pattern could destroy the overall appearance of the rose later.
If not careful, one could infer that each of these rose petals has its own distinct time to blossom and because of this natural time to shine, the common core standards are not necessarily aligned with the time period. To the contrary, when common core is truly implemented correctly, this should not be the case. Common core, according to ballotpedia.org (n. d.), “is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English-language arts and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school” (p 1).
The article further discusses that as of 2012, forty six states in the country had adopted common core standards that are prepared by one commission (p. 10). Since 2009, however, several groups have rallied against common core because of the standardized testing, arguing that the testing is an interference to Erikson’s proverbial rosebud (p. 2). In the 2014 article “Intellectual nutrition for the snack food junkie”, Miller explains that common core standards are written to expand the abstract thinking for the students, by having the teacher to ask probing questions to help the children to figure out what they should do next. When delving into the teaching aspect, it appears that common core is in alignment with the epigenetic principle because of the varying ages of task-related assignments associated with common core.
While Erikson’s definition of developmental tasks is a natural psychosocial event, positive or negative, that affects the students internally or socially as in the school setting (Boeree, 2006 p. 25). Boeree continues to expand this principle as there is no window to expand or change development (p.27). Boeree denotes an optimal time for each developmental task and that when managed well, there is a strength developed to assist the remaining stages in our lives (p. 28) called virtues. Boeree warns that stages mismanaged can lead to maladaptations (too much positive interaction) or malignancies (too much negative interaction) that can also hinder future mental development (p. 28). In reviewing McLeod’s (2013) post of Erikson’s theory, there are only two of the eight stages that would occur during the public school years: industry versus inferiority, and ego-identity versus role-confusion.
The industry versus inferiority stage is the fourth of Erikson’s tasks, which occurs from age five to twelve. The ego-identity versus role confusion stage is next and happens during adolescence. This stage is usually when a student would asks and answers those who am I questions. Either of the these stages, while they play on each other, also participate vividly in common core because students are taught to be independent, while they are challenged by classmates in open discussions while learning social skills, civility, and critical thinking strategies to help them later in life.
For example, McLeod examines the industry versus inferiority stage for the epigenetic principle to find that virtue created during this phase is competence (p.30). Students who feel more confident and encouraged in what they do develop a sense of pride (p.31); however, those students who have more of a negative sensation will develop a sense of self doubt and take on an inferiority complex where there is a need to be socially acceptable (p.32). Students who are unable to a set skill which they felt is demanded by society may develop a sense of inferiority (p. 33). McLeod also notes that a need exists for a balance of modesty and competence should exist and that children should experience some level of failure so that children have some level of modesty (p. 34).
In conclusion, common core standards, albeit tedious and all encompassing, can align with Erik Erikson’s epigenetic principle. Based on his timeline, there are only two stages that common core would intertwine with between ages 5-18, and these stages are when children should be expanding their level of friendships to include more members of the community outside of the house and making lasting friendships. This also includes a time where children are learning to expand their reasoning boundaries.
Common core is designed to nurture these relationships and intellectual processes further by allowing children to share more openly how they may view a subject matter and discuss and healthily debate a particular stance, all while sharpening their critical thinking skills. According to Erikson’s principle, the children who are more successful will go to the next stage of development as a more competent person, when managed and nurture positively by parents, family, teachers, and peers. In the final stage of development during the teen years, children begin an inner quest which can also be nurtured through common core to have students dig for a deeper, more knowledgeable self and how they view the changing world around them.